Sunday, May 15, 2011

Day 25 - The Lady Vanishes

The Lady Vanishes (1938) directed by Alfred Hitchcock

What do you do when you're so sure of something but nobody believes you? Do you quietly let it go or insist what in your mind must be true? There is an old psychology study that goes something like this: A teacher draws a straight line on the board and asks students to describe that line. She calls on a student who answers obviously, "It's a straight line." The teacher, however, gives a quizzical look and asks if someone else wants to try. Another student says, "That line is curved" to which the teacher nods in approval. The first student is obviously not buying it and insists that it's a straight line. Another student interjects and says that it is indeed a curved line and soon everybody in the room agrees with him that it is curved. If you're the one student who sees a straight line, what do you do? Maybe it is curved after all...

In The Lady Vanishes, a woman who bumps her head at a train station is taken care of by a fellow passenger, a friendly elderly woman named Mrs. Froy. When the woman, Iris, wakes up from a nap she discovers that the older lady is gone and nobody seems to remember having ever seen a Mrs. Froy on the train. Dun-dun-dun!!! Iris insists that Mrs. Froy is real and must be in trouble but has a difficult time getting people to believe her.

There is the classic Hitchcock suspense and intrigue, but I was surprised by the amount of humor and even romance involved, which seems out of place in this conspiracy mystery film. For instance, there is a fight scene in the middle that is almost whimsical rather than gripping. Despite the precarious nature of the premise, the underlining tension seems to be washed away by all the other things going on and by the time the mystery is revealed, the film takes a new course and turns into a whole new movie altogether. Also, while the first 25 minutes or so of the movie is used to establish characters, it seems almost unnecessary and irrelevant to the plot, including a well crafted, but unexplained and non-pertinent scene used for shock value more than anything.

Overall, a decent look into early Hitchcock. While the tension and drama is there, there is never that impacting wow moment that one expects from the master of suspense.

Grade: B-

- If you have ever seen the 2005 movie Flightplan, starring Jodie Foster, the premise should be somewhat familiar except the train is replaced by a plane. Flightplan borrows elements from The Lady Vanishes, including the clue in the glass window.

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